Have you ever felt that your dreams are often too big that there’s no way they will ever come true?
You’re not alone. A good number of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after only a week. It could be one of the reasons why you decided to ditch making one this year. Although it’s true that some of our goals could be a tad “unrealistic” (i.e. become a Hollywood actor or actress), it shouldn’t hinder you from visualizing success in the future.
But in order to start, you must first understand why you’re anxious about goal setting.
Why goal setting makes you anxious
Goal Setting and the Brain
Whether it’s as small as beating a 3PM deadline or as big as switching to a new job, your brain reacts to the goals you set.
The second you identify what you want to achieve, your brain starts visualizing as if it’s already happened. Happy hormones called dopamine are then released into the bloodstream.
This is why you feel happy and inspired even before taking action. But if you get sidetracked, this supply suddenly gets cut off and you’re left feeling miserable.
For some people, they get anxious during visualization. Psychological researcher, Jeremy Dean, explains that this is normal because fantasizing too much about success gives the illusion to your brain that you already achieved it.
So why bother giving more effort? This is why when you don’t reach your objectives (for real), you feel twice as despondent.
Be Above Your Anxiety
Scared of switching jobs in the middle of a successful career? Nervous that you’ll probably spend the rest of your life not exploring the world?
Remind yourself that these feelings are common and that everyone experiences them at some point. Understanding how your brain processes goals is the first step – now it’s time to use this knowledge to your advantage.
Here’s how to combat the top three enemies of goal setting:
1.) Too Many Goals, So Little Time
Don’t feel hopeless because you want to achieve many things. The trick is to be SMART about those dreams. It sounds cliché, but it really works.
Setting goals that are SPECIFIC, MEASUREABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT, and TIME-BOUND will increase the chances of truly attaining them. This begins by being highly particular about what you want.
Just ask business magnate, Warren Buffett. With a constantly clear calendar, he lets himself focus on his top priorities.
In a popular anecdote, he encouraged his pilot to forget about 20 of the goals Buffett made him write on a list. Instead, the successful investor asked him to focus on his top five dreams. Not only will this technique make your goals more realistic, it saves you time from getting distracted.
Speaking of distractions…
2.) Getting Sidetracked
As human beings, it’s normal for us to usually get de-motivated or sidetracked on the road to goal setting. But don’t make it an excuse to NOT fulfill your dreams!
As the old saying goes “if there’s a will, there’s a way”. According to experts, the WHY and HOW of a goal is crucial so people would be less likely to get distracted. The “why” is your will and the “how” is your way.
For example: if one of your objectives this year is to switch to a new job, remind yourself WHY you need to do this in the first place. Is it because you’re at a dead-end career? Or maybe you want to explore better opportunities?
Alternately, ask yourself HOW to go about looking for a new job. Will it require you to clear your calendar? Or perhaps refuse that overtime? Do what works for you in order to achieve your dreams.
3.) Fear and Anxiety
One of the best ways to beat fear or apprehension is to surround yourself with people who believe in you.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a single person or an entire team – receiving feedback and support from the ones who matter to you will make a difference in turning your dreams into reality. They’ll be there to remind you of your “why”, and maybe even suggest methods for your “how”.
Remember to pick individuals who have your best interest at heart. They could be your parents, relatives, close friends, trusted mentors, or even coworkers. Ask yourself: who were the people who stayed with me during the worst of times? These are the folks you need with you during goal setting.
Keep Your Castles In The Air
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
What’s the bridge between success and dreams? Actions.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes to achieve your vision (remember the SMART technique?) – what matters is that you start TODAY. One step is the difference between building that bridge and simply dreaming about it forever.
When I was stuck at what I felt then was a dead-end job, I never thought that I’d have something fulfilling now.
Like you, I had plenty of fears and excuses. But all it took was to do ONE thing at a time. Day after day.
How about you, have you started goal setting? What is your focus this year?